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Chrysler's first big entry into the plug-in hybrid arena will be in the form of its next-generation Town & Country minivan, coming a year earlier expected, according to the company's CEO, Sergio Marchionne.

Minivans are great for large families, but their one inherent flaw is fuel economy. Because they are rather heavy, typically not too aerodynamically efficient, and often require V-6 engines for motivation, minivans often get in the low 20-mpg range in the city and 25 to 28 mpg on the highway. This low fuel economy can drain your wallet rather quickly, and hybrid powertrains have yet to make their way into the minivan segment.

As for the plug-in hybrid variant of the people carrier, Chrysler officials present hinted it will use a traditional layout consisting of an electric motor and a gasoline internal combustion engine. Moreover, Chrysler's brand head Al Gardner dropped a curious bit of info earlier this year, declaring that a Chrysler PHEV minivan could achieve the same fuel economy as the Prius PHEV.

Marchione has said that electric vehicles have a long way to go before becoming mainstream because current lithium-ion battery technology costs a lot to use in pass-produced automobiles. He even went as far as imploring customers not to buy the Fiat 500e, the only electric car produced by FCA. Marchionne said at an event at the Brookings Institution in July that the 500e exist only to meet zero-emission rules in California. "Each time I sell one it costs me $14,000," he says.

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